Fairfield’s celebrations finish Black History Month in styleCorinne
Fairfield High School (FHS) students were treated to a special visitor to mark the end of Black History Month. Dionne Draper, a writer, actor, singer and producer spoke to students about their identity and what it meant to them, plus shared details of her own background and struggles due to her transracial adoption. Dionne also impressed by performing a snippet from her one woman musical DAWTA.
Dionne was born to a Jamaican mother and adopted as a tiny baby into a white family living in a small town in Devon. Being the only black person in her school, Dionne was subjected to discrimination and bullying because of her colour. She shared with the students how this made her feel and explained that work should have been done for those children growing up outside their community, ensuring their cultural needs were prioritised. The problem still exists today.
DAWTA, Dionne’s first play is semi-autobiographical, took her five years to write, and in it she plays an incredible seven different characters. Dionne explained how making this explicit to the audience proved a real challenge; the key to the transition lying with the props and voices, although too many run the risk of it becoming ineffective.
Dionne performed a sketch from her special play, pretending to be in a swimming pool. She realised when her friends’ hair got wet, her afro hair didn’t look wet, it simply held droplets. This was the topic of conversation, making this a poignant moment and a moment of personal difference.
Dionne also shared memories of visiting a hair salon years later. There weren’t any black hairdressers in Devon, so her Mum resorted to laundry liquid in order to get a comb through her hair. The freedom of moving to London in the 90s was extraordinary for Dionne as she experienced a whole host of different cultures and experiences (not to mention hairdressers!).
Dionne Draper comments: “If I’m different I’m going to be really different. This musical was my golden opportunity. I know people will be looking at me so let me give them something to watch! I’ve really enjoyed my time at Fairfield. The students were delightfully inquiring, intentive and enthusiastic.”
Asked about her future plans, Dionne confirmed that, whilst nothing was set in stone, it was likely to involve more plays featuring herself as a subject to explore other areas.
See https://www.dionnedraper.com/ for more information.